The Federal Government of Nigeria has finally filed a new substantive challenge against P&ID on the ongoing $9.6 billion case.
“The Federal Republic of Nigeria today filed a new substantive charges in the English Courts, in its ongoing fight against the vulture-fund-backed P&ID. This is a major step forward in their bid to overturn the injustice of the $9.6 billion award,” the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami announced on Friday.
An English court has earlier in August; awarded $9.6 billion to Process and Industrial Development Limited (P&ID), a ruling the Nigerian government decried as unjust and has been looking for a way to get a fair judgment.
The Judgment granted P&ID the right to seek the seizure of some $9.6 billion assets over an aborted gas project. The company was awarded $6.6 billion in an arbitration decision over a failed project of a gas processing plant in the southern Nigerian city of Calabar. With interest payments, the sum now tops $9 billion, 20% above Nigeria’s foreign reserves.
The Minister said based on recent findings, more evidences have become available to the government. “It is clear the original contract was a sham commercial deal and designed to fail from the outset. The fraud was only recently discovered as a result of President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption efforts spearheaded by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,” he said.
It could be recalled that soon after the judgment by the English court, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), launched an investigation into what transpired during the business negotiations between the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) and P&ID.
The investigation revealed lots of fraudulent activities, indicting officials of P&ID as well some others who got their hands dirty to deliver the deal. The EFCC’s investigation resulted in the trial and subsequent conviction of some principals of P&ID.
However, the Nigerian court decision did not change the judgment of the English court, prompting the FGN to file the substantive challenge based on the new evidences of fraud uncovered by the anti-graft investigations.
The filing is therefore a step forward in federal government’s bid to overturn the English court’s judgment that awarded $9.6 billion to P&ID. It could be recalled also, that in September, the court granted Nigeria leave to appeal the ruling, mandating her to pay a security sum of $200 million to the court. The Minister said Nigeria has no plan to forfeit the fund to the English Court.
The case was enveloped in mystery that fingering whose fault the contract signing was became difficult. However, the FGN’s interest has been centered on getting a favorable ruling. And the guilty plea and convictions secured by the EFCC handed another lifeline to Nigeria.
The challenge argues that the Gas and Processing Agreement (GSPA) was procured based on fraud and corruption, while the subsequent arbitral process was riddled with irregularities and deliberately concealed from the government.
Recently, the federal government expanded its legal team and Mishcon de Reya, a leading London law firm was included. The Mishcon de Reya team is led by Shaistah Akhtar, partner, and mark Howard QC of Brick Court Chambers.
Malami said the expansion of the legal team will help the federal government to launch its investigations in full. He added that fresh charges now filed against the officials of P&ID were clear and concrete evidence of fraud and corruption discovered recently.
The federal government is relying on its recent discoveries about P&ID that were riddled with fraud, to overturn the first ruling of the English Court. Losing $9.6 billion is not a possibility the Nigerian government would want to entertain in lax, therefore, it’s doing everything within its means to get a favorable judgment.
Though there is concern that the court will likely base its ruling on the agreement between the Federal Government of Nigeria and P&ID, not on what transpired thereafter: Because the company approached the court for the refusal of Nigerian Government to honor a gas supply contract it signed about 10 years ago. There seems to be more to the contract than the public knows, as the Minister of Justice acknowledged. But the details of the latest investigation will be revealed in the court.